Ammonium oxidation to nitrite and then to nitrate (nitrification) is a key process in many waterworks treating groundwater to make it potable. In rapid sand filters, nitrifying microbial communities may evolve naturally from groundwater bacteria entering the filters. However, in new filters this may take several months, and in some cases the nitrification process is never sufficiently rapid to be efficient or is only performed partially, with nitrite as an undesired end product. The present study reports the first successful priming of nitrification in a rapid sand filter treating groundwater. It is shown that nitrifying communities could be enriched by microbiomes from well-functioning rapid sand filters in waterworks and that the enriched nitrifying consortium could be used to inoculate fresh filters, significantly shortening the time taken for the nitrification process to start. The key nitrifiers in the enrichment were different from those in the well-functioning filter, but similar to those that initiated the nitrification process in fresh filters without inoculation. Whether or not the nitrification was primed with the enriched nitrifying consortium, the bacteria performing the nitrification process during start-up appeared to be slowly outcompeted by Nitrospira, the dominant nitrifying bacterium in well-functioning rapid sand filters.
- Microbiome priming
- Rapid sand filters
- Programme Area 2: Water Resources